Today was a lovely day – I went shopping with my Mama for the first time in years and we had a wonderful time trying on clothes and shoes and helping each other choose lipstick colours and face creams. In other words, we took the girly stereotype to a whole new level (we even came home and ate sushi afterwards. Truefax.) It was particularly special for me because I bought some size 10 jeans – the first time I’ve managed to fit into that size in 3 years.
The thing is, since Christmas I’ve lost 35lbs. That’s 2 and a half stone – in other words, I’ve shed around 25% of my total body-weight. Now, before you either throw doughnuts at the screen in horror or start a Mexican Wave – please understand this is not a self-congratulatory blog about weight loss. Nor is it an episode of Oprah, so it’s alright – I do not expect to start crying uncontrollably, nor am I about to wheel out a wheelbarrow full of bags of sugar representing all the little pounds of flesh I’ve kissed goodbye to in the past six months and roll around in it.
Thankfully, I also haven’t brought any photos of me bulging out of a leopardskin bikini for you to gasp at in a kind of ‘I’m being horribly offensive by showing my disgust at your former appearance, but it’s okay cos you’re skinny now!’ way (WHY do people do that?!) The thing is, I don’t have any such wobbly-bikini photos (and I’m also not exactly ‘skinny’ now either, thankfully). The truth is I wasn’t that enormous to start with – I was just a bit on the chubby side. By Christmas last year, I’d let myself creep up to a BMI of 25 – shock horror, I was 0.1 over the ‘overweight’ end of the scale. Suddenly, losing 35lbs might seem a tad over the top. So why did I do it?
At Christmas I got stressed – I had a lot of ‘stuff’ happening, (oh, you know how ‘stuff‘ is), not least of which was trying to squeeze my 12,000 words of essays and dissertation planning into my hectic schedule of more important Christmas duties, such as getting smashed on Advocaat, wearing as many ridiculous cracker hats as possible and guarding my Christmas tree from the vengeful wrath of my cat. Somehow amidst all the shenanigans, I forgot to have an appetite and I lost half a stone. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased, although I hadn’t tried to achieve this at all. I just got a taste for what it felt like to be a bit slimmer.
After Christmas, life really picked up for me. Lots of good things fell into place, and I started to remember what it felt like to care about my appearance and about achieving my goals. My ambition was in full swing. As the months went by, my appetite stayed low, and the weight kept falling off. I got the confidence to go out clothes shopping for the first time in about 2 years (I’d become one of those awful people for whom clothes shopping had become wrestling with the Dorothy Perkins website at 2am). Out with the size 14 jeans, in with the size 12s. Huzzah.
I suppose I started to feel that my success was becoming synonymous with my weightloss – the more I lost, the happier I’d be. This is, of course, nonsense. Because, suddenly, you start allowing yourself to believe that the ‘half stone’ mark below where you currently are will be the one that makes you happy – that will be your perfect weight. And then the one under that. And so on. And then you end up with a BMI of 19.4, as I am now. Well, the ‘half stone’ mark below where I am now is the point where – according to the Body Mass Index scale – I’d be underweight (18.5 or less). If It got there, would I be any happier? I certainly wouldn’t be any healthier. So I’ve decided enough is enough.
My problem is that I let my ambition take over the goals I’m trying to achieve, and this is a perfect example. I want something (in this case the ‘perfect’ bodyweight), and even if I can’t have it (could you find me a woman that steps on a pair of scales and doesn’t think she could lose a couple of pounds? Exactly.), I will try and get it anyway. And at some point along the line, I realise deep down that what I’m fighting for is unattainable (or didn’t exist to start with), but by that point it’s gone way beyond what I was originally trying to achieve and has become about winning – the goal isn’t important, it’s trying to reach it. Once I get there, it’s very hard to admit to defeat, and that’s when things start to get a bit counterproductive and… well, messy. Quite frankly, I need to learn to let go and stop stressing about the things I don’t have or I won’t be able to start being happy with the things I do have.
And yet I think we all do this sometimes. Whether it’s deciding you have to lose those ‘extra’ pounds even when you’re fine as you are, putting people you care about on a pedestal because you can’t bear to admit they’re not who you thought they were, or trying to be something when you can see it isn’t right for you… we’ve all clung onto something because we can’t bear to admit it didn’t work out like we planned.
Being ambitious is fine, but being so blinkered that you lose all sight of what it was you were first fighting for is about as healthy as sticking your head in a blender. Sometimes, the biggest achievement of all is actually accepting that you can’t always win – you won’t always get to the grass on the other side – and you need to stop – give up – before you end up in a very bad place indeed. I think it’s time to start living for now, and not always craning my neck around the next corner, trying to see if it might be better there. If anything, I can’t afford to buy any smaller jeans.
Image from chriswsn‘s photostream. Preeeetty.